NASHUA — Architects working on various concepts for the city’s middle school project have considered realigning enrollment at the three middle schools so that each building would house 800 students.
While this one scenario is still very preliminary, early design drafts were introduced to the Nashua Joint Special School Building Committee last week highlighting the type of renovations that would be needed at the three schools to make enrollment equal.
In order to equalize enrollment, the student population at Pennichuck Middle School would increase from 637 students to 800, the population at Fairgrounds Middle School would jump from 698 to 800 and the population at Elm Street Middle School would decrease from 1,097 to 800, according to Mark Lee of the Harriman architectural firm.
To make the change, architects must study how the schools are functioning now and how they would function with more or less students, depending on the building, he explained.
“Those really are kind of these two parallel paths that are tangent to each other,” said Lee.
The most significant renovations would likely take place at Fairgrounds Middle School, where the addition of 10 new classrooms would be necessary to accommodate the influx of students, he said, adding the existing portable classrooms would be eliminated under this conceptual scenario.
Other renovations at all three of the middle schools would include the transition to team common areas, a career pathway area and space for English Language Learners.
At Pennichuck, in addition to the 10 new classrooms, the architects have floated the idea of adding new makerspace, a new library and media center and reworking space for a STEM room.
Fairgrounds Middle School will likely need a new, secure vestibule entrance, integrated STEM space, the possibility of SPED and art areas, as well as common space for middle school teams, explained the architects.
“It is very early — conceptual,” said Jamie Ouellette of Harriman. “ … These might be considered pie-in-the-sky type of ideas, but we are just putting stuff on paper so we can make progress here.”
School officials have not yet decided what to do with Elm Street Middle School, as the final report from the architects is expected to highlight different options for either building a new facility or renovation the existing one.
Preliminary cost estimates to upgrade Elm Street Middle School are hovering around $50 million or more.
“We are trying to get this done in a very cost-effective manner,” said Alderman Richard Dowd, chairman of the committee.
A final report from the architects will be submitted in August.
“We are making some progress and thinking of some ideas,” explained Ouellette.
If the Elm Street school remains, the portable classrooms could be eliminated and a tower of classrooms could be constructed onto the existing building, according Ouellette. This will not be necessary, however, if the enrollment is spread across the three schools and Elm Street only has to accommodate 800 students, he added.